Covid-19 took the world by storm and brought us a tornado of fake news, face masks, facetime and free webinars. Our screen became our only window to the world. Our only source of entertainment, information, company gossip and the closest thing we got to checking if our loved ones were doing ok. We started out apologizing in meetings for our kids in the background, not wearing any pants and that the laundry room became our office. But we quickly stopped caring and proudly added interchangeable backgrounds of beaches and pirate ships and were able to invite an actual alpaca to our Zoom calls. Just to spice things up. Because if there is one thing most online meetings and webinars have in common, is that they are often….boring.

3 insights for more engaging webinars and online meetings

A standard online meeting includes one or two people actually meeting, three others watching Netflix on the side and one person figuring out how to unmute himself. The standard webinar is mostly a person running through a 200-page slide deck, saying people are allowed to ask questions every 4 minutes and looking like a deer in headlights when 3 viewers drop out. All normal: “It’s the screen. Harder to connect when you are not in the same room. Easily cluttered by bad connections or background noise. Too many people in one call to manage.” In the end, actually not so different from the face-to-face versions 😉

But to be completely honest, I can relate to the concerns around meeting online, I experience some of the downsides myself, certainly when it comes to bigger events. Nothing can replace the energy exchange between people during a live training or event on location. We are humans and separate ourselves from other animals by being able to connect through language, share ideas instead of just instincts and through emotion, stories and movement exchange information and energy with each other. A lot can be replaced by online and its impact on work efficiency and the environment is without question, but in the end, unless hologram meetings prove me wrong in the near future, it’s still not quite the same as the real thing.

Does that mean you can just sit back, relax and snooze through most of your online meet ups? – No, because not replacing the real deal, doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for online meetings and webinars to not be entertaining.

Meeting online is like running a sprint. Imagine that you are the Usain Bolt of training & events. You are fast, a crowd favorite and in general no match for the competition. Suddenly, they tell you that athletic regulations have changed and now everybody has to lose the spikes and put on hiking shoes instead. Heavy and not very aerodynamic shoes, but does that mean you can’t run anymore, that you can’t give the audience an exciting race or performance? If Forest Gump can run fast with iron braces around his legs, you can run like the wind with hiking shoes on.

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Below are my 3 most used techniques for you to keep people’s attention online and engage with them with ease for two hours or more. 


YOU ARE THE STORY // Connection beats slides

I try to make sure I see as many people as possible during an online webinar or meeting. With video call providers like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google, it is perfectly possible to have numerous people in a virtual room with their video on and still maintain a smooth connection. I also deliberately ask people to turn their video on, if they don’t feel comfortable I will, of course, respect that, but in general I want to see who I am talking to. Which will also offer benefits for the next two points. No matter what you are going to say, no matter what the situation, ‘you’ are the story. That’s why I make sure I interact with people as much as possible and show them my face when I’m talking, instead of a slide for 20 minutes and a miniature box at the top with my head in it. This allows them to better connect with me, even if they are just listening on mute, they can read my face, see my expression, movement and subconsciously better grasp my intentions and emotions. I do use slides in webinars, but only when I need to visually support my story and it has a purpose. As soon as I’m done, I unshare my screen and get back to talking directly to the attendees. I will also ask somebody, even in a 200 people room, to unmute himself to do a live exercise with him during a webinar. In regular meetings of course the interaction is obvious. Might sound like a lot of hassle, but it will keep the session entertaining, connectivity with attendees will increase and you will notice that 2 hours will just fly by even if it’s online. Combine that with monitoring and using the chat, adding some polls if relevant and you have yourself a very pumped online session where nobody gets bored.

I SEE WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE // Nothing left unsaid

Small talk when waiting for the meeting to begin or making that start in a webinar where 200 people are starring at you on mute after you open the waiting room up. Very common and often awkward moments for the meeting organizer or webinar host. You can start talking about the weather, shuffle some papers around or sip some coffee. Just remember, these moments are just as awkward for you as they are for the people in the room and small talk about cliché topics might seem a bit plain, but everybody will be happy to talk about it, because it’s easy and takes the tension away. If you want to move further than the weather or ‘how you doing’, then I recommend to start observing and naming things you see. Somebody has a cool background on Zoom, mention it and ask about it. You see familiar faces in your webinar, greet them and say something nice about them. Somebody has a huge headset on looking like a Star Wars fighter pilot, make a nice joke about it. A person is joining from a country where recently something cool happened in the news, ask about it. I can go on like this forever, there is so much to see when people have their camera on and so much you can talk about. The benefit of naming these things during moments you don’t really know what to say, is that they are close to people. I would love to tell you about my newly installed background, that I got that headset as a birthday gift last week, hear that you noticed I was in your webinar and you gave me a compliment in front of the group. You are immediately creating allies, getting the conversation going, everybody is learning something about the other people and it makes you very approachable. Before you know it, you will be 10 minutes in and you haven’t even mentioned the weather once or had to sit through an awkward silence. With camera’s turned off or your slides up, this will be way more difficult. Adding on that, I also use observation to keep people’s attention throughout, if I see somebody looking on their phone, yawning or a cat passing their desk, I mention it if relevant, surprising the group and the person in a friendly way. This way people know I see things, they can’t just dose off and the little surprise mentions keep everybody on their toes and are often entertaining. Sounds creepy and quite in your face, but do it in a non-offense way, as a comedian would pick a person from the crowd and you will see the attention span rising.

TIME – TECH – TRUST // Control your virtual room

You are not just the story, you are also responsible for the room. Just as in an offline meeting or training, you should try to take away as many things that can possibly make you more nervous or mess with your meeting or webinar flow. Meaning, be on time so you have time to check your tech and notice that being ready, confident and fully setup up with time to spare before the actual start, will boost your confidence and credibility. Nothing more nerve racking and credibility decreasing than fumbling with your video, audio or ability to share your screen. Prepare, test and control your virtual room. Not saying, surprises won’t pop up, it’s still technology, but at least you seriously downsized the risk of anything happening. Doing this will generate trust in yourself, in the course of the session, will make attendees trust you and will make online meeting less scary. To give you a concrete example. I had to give an online training for a large corporation on storytelling. I was going to give the training from our co-working space in my home town. I reserved a meeting room, went to the room the night before to check all cables, lighting, the internet and if I had the latest version of Zoom. Everything checked out. The day itself, I arrived an hour in advance of the training at the office. I went to the room and because it was very hot outside, the central air conditioning was blowing really hard. I knew this would not work for me or the attendees and there was no way to turn it off. All the other meeting rooms had the same issue. 30 minutes left on the clock, time to act. I talked to the office managers and outlined the situation, she quickly offered me a room that normally wouldn’t function as an official meeting room for the co-working space, but she understood the situation. I installed myself and was sitting relaxed in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, waiting for the people to join. They didn’t notice anything and the 2 hours training went smooth. Had I not been there one time, the airco would have interrupted the session, I would have been stressed, had to start with an excuse or would be too late for the session looking for a solution. Time, tech, trust. Prepare, test and make sure you have time to solve any surprises. This way you won’t lose the attention and trust of your audience before you even started.


The screen didn’t make you boring, you probably already were. A harsh title that got you to read this blog, which hopefully showed you that even though there is much to say about meeting online, it also offers opportunity and can be almost just as entertaining as offline sessions. It might sometimes feel like running the sprint with hiking shoes on, but do it right and it will still be a hell of a performance that will increase your network, credibility, personal brand and sales. Expressing yourself in a powerful way (even online) is not a gift, it’s a choice. So, stand up, give yourself a voice, apply the above and you will stand out in the virtual world.